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William James Dodd (September 22, 1862June 14, 1930) was an American architect and designer who worked mainly in Louisville, Kentucky from 1886 through the end of 1912 and in Los Angeles, California from early 1913 until his death. Dodd rose from the so-called First Chicago School of architecture, though of greater influence for his mature designs was the classical aesthetic of the Beaux-Arts style ascendant after the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. His design work also included functional and decorative architectural glass and ceramics, furniture, home appliances, and literary illustration.

In a prodigious career lasting more than 40 years, Dodd left many extant structures on both east and west coasts and in the midwest and upper south, among the best known of these being the original Presbyterian Seminary campus (now Jefferson Community & Technical College), the Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments, and the old YMCA building, all three in downtown Louisville. Also notable are his numerous residential and ecclesiastical designs still in use in Kentucky and Tennessee. In California, examples of his extant work include the Pacific Center and Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mission Auditorium south of Pasadena. Some of his earliest attributed designs may be found in Hyde Park, Illinois.

William J. Dodd was born in Quebec City, Canada, in 1862. Prior to emigrating from Canada to the United States and Chicago Illinois, William's English/Scots father, Edward, was an inn keeper and before that a wharfinger, and his Irish mother, Mary Dinning, was a school teacher and dressmaker. In 1869, the family of six, then including daughters Jane (Jenny) and Elizabeth, and sons Edward Jr. and William James, moved to Chicago. The 1870 Chicago Directory gives the first known address for the Dodds on south Des Plaines near the original site of the Old St. Patrick's Church. In 1871, the ill-timed move of the Dodd household to West Harrison Street in Ward 9 placed them in the path of the great Chicago fire in October of the same year.

Dodd received his training in the office studio of Chicago architect William Le Baron Jenney, ca. 1878–79, and his first employment from 1880 into mid 1883 appears to be for the Pullman Car Company as a draftsman of architect Solon Spencer Beman's designs for the planned city of Pullman, Illinois now the Pullman National Monument. Dodd's social life in Pullman was marked with athletic participation on the first Pullman competitive rowing crew. As a member of the Pullman Rowing Club and the Pullman Pleasure Club he was often mentioned in the press accounts of fetes and dance parties that he coordinated for the young elites of Pullman and Hyde Park. This sporting sociability is not merely incidental to Dodd but returns as an important feature of his later life in Louisville, with his membership in the Pendennis Club and Louisville Country Club, and in Los Angeles with his co-founding of The Uplifters Club, an offshoot of the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

In 1889 William J. Dodd married Ione Estes of Memphis, TN. Ione was from a large family of some political and historical importance in post-Reconstruction era Tennessee and in the Upland South region. While Dodd's religious upbringing was Methodism, after his marriage to Ione his denominational affiliation was Presbyterianism. The marriage produced no children.

There are some uncertainties in Dodd's biography. Although naturalized in 1869 upon entering the United States, from the 1890s onward Dodd identifies as Chicago-born, doing so, Jay Gatsby-like, in all kinds of public documents. In an 1897 interview with a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal W. J. Dodd left the reporter, and thus posterity, with the impression that he was a native Chicagoan, that he graduated from "the Chicago schools" and had been in the first graduating class of the Chicago Art Institute. The archives of the Institute do not yet support this claim. Similarly unclear is precisely when Dodd began his professional practice in Louisville. The year usually offered in the histories of Kentucky architects (from Withey to Hedgepeth, to Kleber, to Luhan, Domer and Mohney) for Dodd's arrival in Louisville is 1884, based on the forementioned 1897 Courier-Journal article. In contrast, the Chicago Tribune still identifies him with the Pullman Rowing Club in early 1884, around this time taking employment as an architect with the Northern Pacific Railway upon recommendation by S.S. Beman and moving to the rail company's office in Portland Oregon only to return to Chicago (Hyde Park) and employment with the Beman brothers (S.S. and W.I) by the end of 1885 after the Northern Pacific's collapse and reorganization. The journal Inland Architect of February 1886 announces Dodd's imminent departure from Chicago to begin a partnership with O. C. Wehle of Louisville, saying: "Mr Dodd will [soon] be a valuable addition to the architects of Louisville". By September 1886 Dodd is cited as partner with Oscar Wehle for the design of "a magnificent three story brown stone residence" in Louisville. In November 1886, Dodd was elected to membership in the Western Association of Architects, his home city being given as Louisville. Dodd first appears as a resident, a boarder, in Louisville in the 1887 Caron's Louisville Directory, and in February of same year, a trade journal cites "Wehle & Dodd, architects, of Louisville." In December 1887, the Courier-Journal newspaper gives the partnership office in Louisville as "s.e. cor. Fifth and Main" The American Institute of Architects [A.I.A.] Historical Directory of American Architects has held that Dodd did not join the A.I.A. national organization until 1916 despite Dodd's listing in membership with the Louisville Chapter of the A.I.A. in 1912 and in Southern California A.I.A. chapter in 1915.

Dodd spent nearly 27 years in Louisville. During this time his professional partners were Oscar C. Wehle, Mason Maury, Arthur Cobb, and Kenneth McDonald. Also, Dodd's output from these years contained many free-lance projects. He worked throughout Kentucky and across the midwest, specifically Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee, creating structures of exceptional craftsmanship and high style, designs which traced the transitional tastes and technologies of the period before Modernism. On the east coast, extant Dodd structures from the early 1890s can be found in Virginia, in the historic Ghent (Norfolk) neighborhood.

On Christmas Day 1912 Dodd departed the midwest to continue his profession in the greater Los Angeles area, a period lasting until his death there in June 1930. In Los Angeles, Dodd partnered briefly with J. Martyn Haenke (1877–1963) and later with William Richards (1871–1945), his longest professional partnership.

In southern California, "the Southland", Dodd's buildings are to be found in the old downtown financial district around Pacific Center, above Hollywood in Laughlin Park and Hancock Park, to the west in Rustic Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Long Beach, southeast to San Gabriel, and possibly northeast in Altadena. Related to Dodd's Los Angeles work are residences in Oak Glen and Palm Springs, California.

From as early as 1893, and to the end of his life, Dodd was a mentor to talented younger designers who were new to the profession, designers with now well-known names like Lloyd Wright, Thomas Chalmers Vint, and Adrian Wilson, often outsiders without a developed practice and contending with a new client base and fast evolving licensing standards in cities enjoying rapid expansion as was Louisville after the American Civil War and Los Angeles after World War I. The architect Julia Morgan, a mostly free-lance California designer from upstate San Francisco, rare as a female in a male-dominated profession, formed a team with W. J. Dodd and J. M. Haenke as her LA facilitators and design partners for William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building, a landmark downtown Los Angeles project completed in 1915.

William Dodd's design work extended to glass and ceramics. His designs of Teco pottery are among the most sought-after and rare of the Arts and Crafts movement products introduced by the famed Gates Potteries near Chicago Illinois. He also designed furniture and art glass windows for many of his best residential and commercial buildings; examples of such work by Dodd are to be seen in the Ferguson Mansion, currently the Filson Historical Society, and the Hoyt Gamble house, both of Louisville.

Dodd was an amateur musical and theatrical performer. It is known that he was a singer. He served on the founding boards of the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (1908) and the Louisville Art Association (1909), now Louisville Visual Art, and he was a member of dramatic societies in both Louisville and Los Angeles. From 1916 to 1919 he served on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, this latter organization being the predecessor of the LA Philharmonic, and he was a mover and shaker in the Los Angeles Gamut Club, an exclusively male music fraternity. In 1918, the journal Pacific Coast Musical Review said "It seems Mr. Dodd has the knack of making artists and others do what he wants them to" and nicknamed Dodd "the Mayor of Seventh Street", presumably a reference to the theater and vaudeville district of old Los Angeles. From 1917 until his death he served on the California State Board of Examiners. In early 1930 he joined the newly founded International Desert Conservation League as an advisory board member.

Notable Buildings:

  • Max Seliger residence (mid 1886), 1022 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville-Limerick Historic District.
  • Lewis Witherspoon & Eliza Irwin McKee residence (Autumn 1886), 1224 Harrodsburg Rd. Lawrenceburg, KY
  • Louis Seelbach residence (1888). 926 S. 6th St. Old Louisville-Limerick Historic District.
  • Charles Bonnycastle Robinson residence (1889), a.k.a. "Bonnycot". 1111 Bellewood Rd. Anchorage, Kentucky
  • Louisville Trust Building (1891), 5th and Market, Louisville, Kentucky. Links to images given below.
  • George A. Newman residence (1891), 1123 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Charles L. Robinson residence (1890–91), 1334 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Covenant Presbyterian Church (1891), now Fifth Street Baptist, 1901 W. Jefferson St., Louisville KY
  • W. J. Dodd residence (1891-2: first residence 33 St James Ct) 1467a St. James Court, Old Louisville Historic District
  • Paul Cain residence (1891-2: first residence 35 St James Ct) 1467b St. James Court, Old Louisville Historic District
  • Nelson County Courthouse (1892), Bardstown Historic District
  • Sam Stone Bush residence (1893), 230 Kenwood Hill, Louisville KY
  • Bernard Flexner residence (1892–93), 525 W. Ormsby Ave. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Jacob A. Flexner residence (1892–93), 531 W. Omsby Ave. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Harry McGoodwin residence (1893), 1504 S. 3rd St.Old Louisville Historic District
  • Cornelia Bush residence (1894),[76] 316 Kenwood Hill, Louisville KY
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church (1895), now West End Baptist, 4th & Magnolia, Old Louisville.
  • Dr. G. W. Lewman residence (1896), 1365 S. 3rd. Maury & Dodd. Old Louisville Historic District
  • J. W. Brown residence (1896), 1455 S. 4th. Maury & Dodd. Old Louisville Historic District
  • William T. Johnston residence (1896), 1457 S. 4th. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Shakleford Miller residence (1897), 1454 S. 4th St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Edmund Trabue residence (1897), 1419 St. James Court. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Benjamin Straus residence (1897), 1464 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • William Thalheimer residence (1897), 1433 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Eugene Leander residence (1897), 1384 S. 2nd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Samuel Grabfelder residence (1897-99), 1442 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Joseph G McCulloch residence (1897), 1435 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • John P. Starks residence (1898), 1412 St. James Court Old Louisville Historic District
  • Flemish style library addition to Sam Stone Bush residence (1900), 230 Kenwood Hill Rd. Louisville
  • George Franklin Berry Mansion (ca. 1900, addition 1912) 700 Louisville Rd., Frankfort KY.
  • Atherton Building (1901), 4th and Muhammad Ali, Louisville, KY
  • Four-stall stable and carriage house for S. Grabfelder residence (ca. 1901), 1442 S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District
  • Eight-stall stable and carriage house for Peter Lee Atherton residence (ca. 1902), Old Louisville Historic District
  • Five-stall stable and carriage house for EH Ferguson residence (ca. 1902), Old Louisville Historic District
  • Edwin H. Ferguson mansion (1902–1905), now The Filson Historical Society, 3rd & Ormsby, Old Louisville
  • Fourth Avenue Methodist-Episcopal Church (1901-2), 4th & St. Catherine Sts., Old Louisville Historic District.
  • Jacob L. Smyser residence (1902), 1035 Cherokee Rd. Louisville
  • Presbyterian Theological Seminary (ca. 1902-6) now Jefferson Community & Technical College, Broadway, downtown Louisville
  • Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library (ca. 1905), a Carnegie library: America's first public library dedicated to serve African Americans, 10th & Chestnut.
  • Muhlenberg County Courthouse in Greenville KY (1907).
  • Atherton Building and Mary Anderson Theatre (1907), 610 S. 4th St., Louisville

Stewarts Building (1907), also known as Stewarts Dry Goods Company, Fourth and Muhammad Ali streets, Louisville

  • Seelbach Hotel (1902 Andrews & Dodd; 1907 McDonald & Dodd) at 4th & Muhammad Ali, Louisville.
  • 1244 & 1246 Ormsby Court (1907, McDonald & Dodd.) Dodd bought the lots. Attributed by style.
  • 143 Bayly Ave (1910, McDonald & Dodd) Louisville
  • William J. Dodd residence (Spring/Summer 1910), 1448 St James Court, Old Louisville Historic District
  • Louisville Country Club (1910)
  • Walnut Street Theatre (1910), 414 W. Muhammad Ali (formerly Walnut St.), Louisville
  • George Gaulbert Memorial Shelter House, near Big Rock in Cherokee Park (1910)

Citizens National Life Insurance Building (1910–11), 100 Park Road, Anchorage, Kentucky

  • First Christian Church (1911), now Immanuel Baptist Church, 4th & Breckinridge streets.
  • Charles L. Nelson residence (1911–12), 2327 Cherokee Pkwy, Louisville, KY
  • William R. Belknap residence (1905–12), a.k.a. "Lincliff", 6100 Longview Lane, Glenview, Kentucky
  • Alfred Brandeis residence (1911–12), a.k.a. "Ladless Hill", 6501 Longview Lane, Glenview, Kentucky
  • Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments Annex, Broadway, Louisville (ca. 1912).

the old YMCA building, Broadway, Louisville (1911–1912).

  • Louis Seelbach mansion (1911–12) or "Barnard Hall". 715 Alta Vista Rd. Louisville
  • Standard Oil of Kentucky Offices, Fifth & Bloom Sts, Louisville (1912 May-Oct). McDonald & Dodd
  • T. Hoyt Gamble residence, 119 Ormsby Avenue, Old Louisville Historic District (late 1912)